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Heads of major Russian arts institutions resign as war in Ukraine escalates

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Russia is witnessing a top-level talent drain from its art museums and cultural institutions as their directors quit in protest against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Many of these leaders are leaving on their own, but the context suggests that some may have been expelled after failing to voice support for the attack.

Among those leaving high positions are Vladimir Opredelenov, the veteran deputy director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, who clarified in a Instagram post, “My attitude to current world events does not coincide with that of my colleagues from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. I hope that will change in the near future, but with things as they are, I am forced to leave my beloved museum.

At the VAC Foundation in Moscow, director Francesco Manacorda resigned from his position as artistic director, which he had held since 2017, telling the Russian news agency TASS: “Unfortunately, current events have significantly changed my working conditions. and personal, so I have come to the conclusion that I will not be able to continue working with the same dedication that I could be proud of. Manacorda noted that his “decision was made with great difficulty and regret.” VAC, which is also based in Venice, operates the recently opened GES-2 museum in Moscow, which announced on Sunday that it was halting all exhibitions and events Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson earlier that week ended his exhibit there a month earlier, citing the “horror” unfolding in Ukraine.

Simon Rees, artistic director of Cosmoscow since 2019, revealed last week that he was severing ties with the art fair, pointing to the economic impact on Europeans, especially those of low economic status, of Putin’s actions in Ukraine. Cosmoscow did not openly condemn the Russian invasion but publicly acknowledged that “the human and political tragedy that is occurring concerns absolutely everyone”.

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